In a "letter to farmer friends" Chinese agricultural officials exhorted farmers to go into fields to prepare for spring planting while taking care to wear masks, wash hands, and avoiding congregating in groups. A circular issued by the Ministry today gave similar instructions, warning village officials not to demand unauthorized transport permits or to block roads without approval from county or higher governments in order to ensure that seeds and inputs needed for spring planting can reach villages.
While wary of the risk of coronavirus spreading through the countryside, officials are also worried that delayed preparations for spring cultivation could result in a lost harvest. The letter issued by the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Center advised farmers, "We cannot let up on prevention," but "spring cultivation cannot be delayed." "Fields need attention--don't lose a moment, don't lose a year," the notice intoned.
Farmers were advised to prepare to fertilize and apply pesticides to winter wheat and rapeseed and to give attention to vegetable fields, fruit orchards, and tea plantations. The letter and notice warned to be on alert for fungal diseases affecting wheat and rapeseed and outbreaks of fall army worm this spring. Officials called for farmers to switch from chemical to organic fertilizers and utilize disease and pest-prevention teams to increase efficiency of pesticide applications and avoid large numbers of farmers going into fields to spray crops.
Officials urged farmers to buy seeds from legal shops in clearly-labeled packages and to obtain proof of purchase. The notice called for cracking down on fake seeds and inputs. Seed, fertilizer, and other agricultural enterprises are to be added to the list of companies that should restart normal business operations as soon as possible.
The circular also called for organizing ad hoc teams of villagers and returned migrants to do farm work. The circular advised family farms, cooperatives, and other businesses to cooperate and exchange labor to address the labor shortage facing vegetable farms.
The "letter to farmer friends" closed by reminding farmers to wear masks when leaving home, wash hands when returning, and to avoid congregating in groups while in fields. The circular ordered local officials to ensure that farms and workers go into the fields in an orderly manner at separate times and divide work.